With the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia in full swing we took the opportunity to sit down with Olympic Silver Medallist Todd Hlushko and get his first hand feedback of what the athlete experience was like.
Todd played 16 years of professional hockey, in Europe, in the NHL and AHL. As part of that experience, he participated and won a silver medal with Canadian Men’s Hockey Team in Lilehammer in 1994.
Todd now is a STAK Fitness team member working with organizations to help their fitness offering through premium equipment supply. Todd lives and works in Guelph, Ontario.
Q: What are your fondest memories of the Olympics in “94 in Lillehammer?
Todd: The fact that the Winter Olympics were held in a small city like Lillehammer, made the Olympic vibe that much more special. To have the Winter Olympics in that type of setting was awesome. To this day, everyone says that Lillehammer was by far and away the best winter Olympics ever. I have to agree.
Todd: The Olympics are a special time, and when you get the opportunity to represent your country at the Olympics, there isn’t anything better than that. To be in the village with all the other Canadian Olympians was awesome. We all had our own events that we were competing in, but when a Canadian won a medal, the entire Canadian team felt like they won the medal with them. The comradery in the village was unbelievable. We all supported each other, and tried to get to each other’s events whenever possible. I was fortunate to be on the mountain with many of the Canadian Olympians when Jean Luc brassard won Canada’s first gold medal of the games in Men’s moguls. What a party we had on the Mountain that day.
Q: How does this experience fit into your career in terms of highlights?
Todd: The Winter Olympics in Lillehammer was the single greatest event I have ever participated in and to this day I am so grateful I was able to be part of such a once in a lifetime event. I will never forget being part of team Canada, and walking in the opening ceremonies. I have never been more proud to be a Canadian as I was at that moment.
Q: There is much discussion about the NHL athletes being in Sochi, and whether this will be their last Olympics. How do you feel about it?
Todd: The fact that the NHL players have attended the last 5 winter Olympics has made the Olympic games that much more exciting to watch. Having the greatest hockey players in the world playing in the Olympics has made Men’s hockey the premier event to watch at the Olympics. But I have to be honest, in 1994 when I played, the NHL superstars were not playing. This did not take away from the calibre of hockey being played, every game was sold out , and every game was close. It made every game that much more important. So a Canada Norway game was as exciting to watch as a Canada Russia game. So if the NHLer’s do not come back, it will be disappointing, but the reality is the players that will represent their countries will do it with the same pride and passion as a Sidney Crosby does for Canada now. The best part is the unknown names, will soon become household names, and that is pretty cool.
Q: What do you think is the toughest part of the NHL athletes participating in Sochi?
Todd: Probably the toughest transition the NHLer’s will have to adjust to in Sochi is going to be with the living accommodations. No longer will they get pampered in the 5 Star hotels, and eat at a Ruth Chris steak house for pregame/post-game meals. These guys will be sleeping beside each other in university style dorm rooms with beds that are 2 feet too short for them, while listening to their teammate snore like a buzz saw right beside them. I guess they will understand how their wives feel now. LOL
The team that makes this transition the easiest, excepts it, and does not make it the main focus of the Olympics, will be that much better off, and ultimately will give their team the best chance of winning every game at the Olympics. Do not get me wrong, this is a tough adjustment for these NHLer’s, but it is a mental game now, and in order to win a gold medal, the metal side of the game has to be razor sharp.
Q: What are your predictions for the Men’s Hockey Medals?
Todd: Canada is the defending Olympic Champions, and with the talent on their roster they are favorites once again. But do not tell that to the Russians, they have all the pressure squarely on their shoulders. There was a message clearly sent to the Russian team when Legendary Russian goaltender Vladislav Tretiak was the final torch barrier lighting the Olympic flame. The message to the Russian team was Gold or bust boys. There is so much pride within those Russian Hockey Players. They saw how much it meant to Canada to win the Gold on home soil in Vancouver in 2010. Believe me when I tell you, Alexander Ovechkin and the rest of Team Russia want to do the same thing for their country in Sochi this time around. Watch out Canada, we will have our hands full with the angry Russian Bear this time around. If Canada does win Gold, we will have to go through Russia first.
My predictions> Gold -Canada, Silver- Russia, Bronze-USA